Part 1 out of 5
THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY.
A MAGAZINE OF LITERATURE, ART, AND POLITICS.
VOL. II.--SEPTEMBER, 1858.--NO. XI.
It is the doctrine of the popular music-masters, that whoever can
speak can sing. So, probably, every man is eloquent once in his life.
Our temperaments differ in capacity of heat, or we boil at different
degrees. One man is brought to the boiling point by the excitement of
conversation in the parlor. The waters, of course, are not very deep.
He has a two-inch enthusiasm, a pattypan ebullition. Another requires
the additional caloric of a multitude, and a public debate; a third
needs an antagonist, or a hot indignation; a fourth needs a
revolution; and a fifth, nothing less than the grandeur of absolute
ideas, the splendors and shades of Heaven and Hell.
But because every man is an orator, how long soever he may have been a
mute, an assembly of men is so much more susceptible. The eloquence of
one stimulates all the rest, some up to the speaking point, and all
others to a degree that makes them good receivers and conductors, and
they avenge themselves for their enforced silence by increased
loquacity on their return to the fireside.
The plight of these phlegmatic brains is better than that of those who
prematurely boil, and who impatiently break the silence before their
time. Our county conventions often exhibit a small-pot-soon-hot style
of eloquence. We are too much reminded of a medical experiment, where
a series of patients are taking nitrous-oxide gas. Each patient, in
turn, exhibits similar symptoms,--redness in the face, volubility,
violent gesticulation, delirious attitudes, occasional stamping, an
alarming loss of perception of the passage of time, a selfish
enjoyment of his sensations, and loss of perception of the sufferings
of the audience.
Plato says, that the punishment which the wise suffer, who refuse to
take part in the government, is, to live under the government of worse
men; and the like regret is suggested to all the auditors, as the
penalty of abstaining to speak, that they shall hear worse orators
But this lust to speak marks the universal feeling of the energy of
the engine, and the curiosity men feel to touch the springs. Of all
the musical instruments on which men play, a popular assembly is that
which has the largest compass and variety, and out of which, by genius
and study, the most wonderful effects can be drawn. An audience is not
a simple addition of the individuals that compose it. Their sympathy
gives them a certain social organism, which fills each member, in his
own degree, and most of all the orator, as a jar in a battery is
charged with the whole electricity of the battery. No one can survey
the face of an excited assembly, without being apprised of new
opportunity for painting in fire human thought, and being agitated to
agitate. How many orators sit mute there below! They come to get
justice done to that ear and intuition which no Chatham and no
Demosthenes has begun to satisfy.
The Welsh Triads say, "Many are the friends of the golden tongue." Who
can wonder at the attractiveness of Parliament, or of Congress, or the
bar, for our ambitious young men, when the highest bribes of society
are at the feet of the successful orator? He has his audience at his
devotion. All other fames must hush before his. He is the true
potentate; for they are not kings who sit on thrones, but they who
know how to govern. The definitions of eloquence describe its
attraction for young men. Antiphon the Rhamnusian, one of Plutarch's
ten orators, advertised in Athens, "that he would cure distempers of
the mind with words." No man has a prosperity so high or firm, but two
or three words can dishearten it. There is no calamity which right
words will not begin to redress. Isocrates described his art, as "the
power of magnifying what was small and diminishing what was
great";--an acute, but partial definition. Among the Spartans, the art
assumed a Spartan shape, namely, of the sharpest weapon. Socrates
says, "If any one wishes to converse with the meanest of the
Lacedaemonians, he will at first find him despicable in conversation;
but, when a proper opportunity offers, this same person, like a
skilful jaculator, will hurl a sentence worthy of attention, short and
contorted, so that he who converses with him will appear to be in no
respect superior to a boy." Plato's definition of rhetoric is, "the
art of ruling the minds of men." The Koran says, "A mountain may
change its place, but a man will not change his disposition";--yet the
end of eloquence is,--is it not?--to alter in a pair of hours, perhaps
in a half-hour's discourse, the convictions and habits of years. Young
men, too, are eager to enjoy this sense of added power and enlarged
sympathetic existence. The orator sees himself the organ of a
multitude, and concentrating their valors and powers:
"But now the blood of twenty thousand men
Blushed in my face."
That which he wishes, that which eloquence ought to reach, is, not a
particular skill in telling a story, or neatly summing up evidence, or
arguing logically, or dexterously addressing the prejudice of the
company; no, but a taking sovereign possession of the audience. Him we
call an artist, who shall play on an assembly of men as a master on
the keys of the piano,--who, seeing the people furious, shall soften
and compose them, shall draw them, when he will, to laughter and to
tears. Bring him to his audience, and, be they who they may, coarse or
refined, pleased or displeased, sulky or savage, with their opinions
in the keeping of a confessor, or with their opinions in their
bank-safes,--he will have them pleased and humored as he chooses; and
they shall carry and execute that which he bids them.
This is that despotism which poets have celebrated in the "Pied Piper
of Hamelin," whose music drew like the power of gravitation,--drew
soldiers and priests, traders and feasters, women and boys, rats and
mice; or that of the minstrel of Meudon, who made the pallbearers
dance around the bier. This is a power of many degrees, and requiring
in the orator a great range of faculty and experience, requiring a
large composite man, such as Nature rarely organizes, so that, in our
experience, we are forced to gather up the figure in fragments, here
one talent, and there another.
The audience is a constant metre of the orator. There are many
audiences in every public assembly, each one of which rules in turn.
If anything comic and coarse is spoken, you shall see the emergence of
the boys and rowdies, so loud and vivacious, that you might think the
house was filled with them. If new topics are started, graver and
higher, these roisters recede; a more chaste, and wise attention takes
place. You would think the boys slept, and that the men have any
degree of profoundness. If the speaker utter a noble sentiment, the
attention deepens, a new and highest audience now listens, and the
audiences of the fun and of facts and of the understanding are all
silenced and awed. There is also something excellent in every
audience,--the capacity of virtue. They are ready to be beatified.
They know so much more than the orator,--and are so just! There is a
tablet there for every line he can inscribe, though he should mount to
the highest levels. Humble persons are conscious of new illumination;
narrow brows expand with enlarged affections: delicate spirits, long
unknown to themselves, masked and muffled in coarsest fortunes, who
now hear their own native language for the first time, and leap to
hear it. But all these several audiences, each above each, which
successively appear to greet the variety of style and topic, are
really composed out of the same persons; nay, sometimes the same
individual will take active part in them all, in turn.
This range of many powers in the consummate speaker and of many
audiences in one assembly leads us to consider the successive stages
Perhaps it is the lowest of the qualities of an orator, but it is, on
so many occasions, of chief importance,--a certain robust and radiant
physical health,--or, shall I say? great volumes of animal heat. When
each auditor feels himself to make too large a part of the assembly,
and shudders with cold at the thinness of the morning audience, and
with fear lest all will heavily fail through one bad speech, mere
energy and mellowness are then inestimable. Wisdom and learning would
be harsh and unwelcome, compared with a substantial cordial man, made
of milk, as we say, who is a house-warmer, with his obvious honesty
and good meaning, and a hue-and-cry style of harangue, which inundates
the assembly with a flood of animal spirits, and makes all safe and
secure, so that any and every sort of good speaking becomes at once
practicable. I do not rate this animal eloquence very highly, and yet,
as we must be fed and warmed before we can do any work well, even the
best, so is this semi-animal exuberance, like a good stove, of the
first necessity in a cold house.
Climate has much to do with it,--climate and race. Set a New Englander
to describe any accident which happened in his presence. What
hesitation and reserve in his narrative! He tells with difficulty some
particulars, and gets as fast as he can to the result, and, though he
cannot describe, hopes to suggest the whole scene. Now listen to a
poor Irish-woman recounting some experience of hers. Her speech flows
like a river,--so unconsidered, so humorous, so pathetic, such justice
done to all the parts! It is a true transubstantiation,--the fact
converted into speech, all warm and colored and alive, as it fell out.
Our Southern people are almost all speakers, and have every advantage
over the New England people, whose climate is so cold, that, 'tis said,
we do not like to open our mouths very wide. But neither can the
Southerner in the United States, nor the Irish, compare with the
lively inhabitant of the South of Europe. The traveller in Sicily
needs no gayer melodramatic exhibition than the _table d'hote_ of his
inn will afford him, in the conversation of the joyous guests. They
mimic the voice and manner of the person they describe; they crow,
squeal, hiss, cackle, bark, and scream like mad, and, were it only by
the physical strength exerted in telling the story, keep the table in
unbounded excitement. But in every constitution some large degree of
animal vigor is necessary as material foundation for the higher
qualities of the art.
But eloquence must be attractive, or it is none. The virtue of books
is to be readable, and of orators to be interesting, and this is a
gift of Nature; as Demosthenes, the most laborious student in that
kind, signified his sense of this necessity when he wrote, "Good
Fortune," as his motto on his shield. As we know, the power of
discourse of certain individuals amounts to fascination, though it may
have no lasting effect. Some portion of this sugar must intermingle.
The right eloquence needs no bell to call the people together, and no
constable to keep them. It draws the children from their play, the old
from their arm-chairs, and the invalid from his warm chamber; it holds
the hearer fast, steals away his feet, that he shall not depart,--his
memory, that he shall not remember the most pressing affairs,--his
belief, that he shall not admit any opposing considerations. The
pictures we have of it in semi-barbarous ages, when it has some
advantages in the simpler habit of the people, show what it aims at.
It is said that the Khans, or story-tellers in Ispahan and other
cities of the East, attain a controlling power over their audience,
keeping them for many hours attentive to the most fanciful and
extravagant adventures. The whole world knows pretty well the style of
these improvisators, and how fascinating they are, in our translations
of the "Arabian Nights." Scheherzarade tells these stories to save her
life, and the delight of young Europe and young America in them proves
that she fairly earned it. And who does not remember in childhood some
white or black or yellow Scheherzarade, who, by that talent of telling
endless feats of fairies and magicians, and kings and queens, was more
dear and wonderful to a circle of children than any orator of England
or America is now? The more indolent and imaginative complexion of the
Eastern nations makes them much more impressible by these appeals to
These legends are only exaggerations of real occurrences, and every
literature contains these high compliments to the art of the orator
and the bard, from the Hebrew and the Greek down to the Scottish
--"harpit a fish out o' saut water,
Or water out of a stone,
Or milk out of a maiden's breast
Who bairn had never none."
Homer specially delighted in drawing the same figure. For what is the
"Odyssey," but a history of the orator, in the largest style, carried
through a series of adventures furnishing brilliant opportunities to
his talent? See with what care and pleasure the poet brings him on the
stage. Helen is pointing out to Antenor, from a tower, the different
Grecian chiefs. "Antenor said: 'Tell me, dear child, who is that man,
shorter by a head than Agamemnon, yet he looks broader in his
shoulders and breast. His arms lie on the ground, but he, like a
leader, walks about the bands of the men. He seems to me like a
stately ram, who goes as a master of the flock.' Him answered Helen,
daughter of Jove: 'This is the wise Ulysses, son of Laertes, who was
reared in the state of craggy Ithaca, knowing all wiles and wise
counsels.' To her the prudent Antenor replied again: 'O woman, you
have spoken truly. For once the wise Ulysses came hither on an
embassy, with Menelaus, beloved by Mars. I received them, and
entertained them at my house. I became acquainted with the genius and
the prudent judgments of both. When they mixed with the assembled
Trojans and stood, the broad shoulders of Menelaus rose above the
other; but, both sitting, Ulysses was more majestic. When they
conversed, and interweaved stories and opinions with all; Menelaus
spoke succinctly, few but very sweet words, since he was not
talkative, nor superfluous in speech, and was the younger. But when
the wise Ulysses arose, and stood, and looked down, fixing his eyes on
the ground, and neither moved his sceptre backward nor forward, but
held it still, like an awkward person, you would say it was some angry
or foolish man; but when he sent his great voice forth out of his
breast, and his words fell like the winter snows, not then would any
mortal contend with Ulysses; and we, beholding, wondered not
afterwards so much at his aspect."[_Iliad_, III. 192.]
Thus he does not fail to arm Ulysses at first with this power of
overcoming all opposition by the blandishments of speech. Plutarch
tells us that Thucydides, when Archidamus, king of Sparta, asked him,
Which was the best wrestler, Pericles or he? replied, "When I throw
him, he says he was never down, and he persuades the very spectators
to believe him." Philip of Macedon said of Demosthenes, on hearing the
report of one of his orations, "Had I been there, he would have
persuaded me to take up arms against myself"; and Warren Hastings said
of Burke's speech on his impeachment, "As I listened to the orator, I
felt for more than half an hour as if I were the most culpable being
In these examples, higher qualities have already entered; but the
power of detaining the ear by pleasing speech, and addressing the
fancy and imagination, often exists without higher merits. Thus
separated, as this fascination of discourse aims only at amusement,
though it be decisive in its momentary effect, it is yet a juggle, and
of no lasting power. It is heard like a band of music passing through
the streets, which converts all the passengers into poets, but is
forgotten as soon as it has turned the next corner; and unless this
oiled tongue could, in Oriental phrase, lick the sun and moon away, it
must take its place with opium and brandy. I know no remedy against it
but cotton-wool, or the wax which Ulysses stuffed into the ears of his
sailors to pass the Sirens safely.
There are all degrees of power, and the least are interesting, but
they must not be confounded. There is the glib tongue and cool
self-possession of the salesman in a large shop, which, as is well
known, overpower the prudence and resolution of housekeepers of both
sexes. There is a petty lawyer's fluency, which is sufficiently
impressive to him who is devoid of that talent, though it be, in so
many cases, nothing more than a facility of expressing with accuracy
and speed what everybody thinks and says more slowly, without new
information, or precision of thought,--but the same thing, neither
less nor more. It requires no special insight to edit one of our
country newspapers. Yet whoever can say off currently, sentence by
sentence, matter neither better nor worse than what is there printed,
will be very impressive to our easily-pleased population. These
talkers are that class who prosper like the celebrated schoolmaster,
by being only one lesson ahead of the pupil. Add a little sarcasm, and
prompt allusion to passing occurrences, and you have the mischievous
member of Congress. A spice of malice, a ruffian touch in his
rhetoric, will do him no harm with his audience. These accomplishments
are of the same kind, and only a degree higher than the coaxing of the
auctioneer, or the vituperative style well described in the
street-word "jawing." These kinds of public and private speaking have
their use and convenience to the practitioners; but we may say of such
collectively, that the habit of oratory is apt to disqualify them for
One of our statesmen said, "The curse of this country is eloquent
men." And one cannot wonder at the uneasiness sometimes manifested by
trained statesmen, with large experience of public affairs, when they
observe the disproportionate advantage suddenly given to oratory over
the most solid and accumulated public service. In a Senate or other
business committee, the solid result depends on a few men with working
talent. They know how to deal with the facts before them, to put
things into a practical shape, and they value men only as they can
forward the work. But some new man comes there, who has no capacity
for helping them at all, is insignificant, and nobody in the
committee, but has a talent for speaking. In the debate with open
doors, this precious person makes a speech, which is printed, and read
all over the Union, and he at once becomes famous, and takes the lead
in the public mind over all these executive men, who, of course, are
full of indignation to find one who has no tact or skill, and knows he
has none, put over them by means of this talking power which they
Leaving behind us these pretensions, better or worse, to come a little
nearer to the verity, eloquence is attractive as an example of the
magic of personal ascendency;--a total and resultant power,--rare,
because it requires a rich coincidence of powers, intellect, will,
sympathy, organs, and, over all, good-fortune in the cause. We have a
half-belief that the person is possible who can counterpoise all other
persons. We believe that there may be a man who is a match for
events,--one who never found his match,--against whom other men being
dashed are broken,--one of inexhaustible personal resources, who can
give you any odds and beat you. What we really wish for is a mind
equal to any exigency. You are safe in your rural district, or in the
city, in broad daylight, amidst the police, and under the eyes of a
hundred thousand people. But how is it on the Atlantic, in a storm? Do
you understand how to infuse your reason into men disabled by terror,
and to bring yourself off safe then?--how among thieves, or among an
infuriated populace, or among cannibals? Face to face with a
highwayman who has every temptation and opportunity for violence and
plunder, can you bring yourself off safe by your wit, exercised
through speech?--a problem easy enough to Caesar, or Napoleon.
Whenever a man of that stamp arrives, the highwayman has found a
master. What a difference between men in power of face! A man succeeds
because he has more power of eye than another, and so coaxes or
confounds him. The newspapers, every week, report the adventures of
some impudent swindler, who, by steadiness of carriage, duped those
who should have known better. Yet any swindlers we have known are
novices and bunglers, as is attested by their ill name. A greater
power of face would accomplish anything, and, with the rest of their
takings, take away the bad name. A greater power of carrying the thing
loftily, and with perfect assurance, would confound merchant, banker,
judge, men of influence and power, poet, and president, and might head
any party, unseat any sovereign, and abrogate any constitution in
Europe and America. It was said, that a man has at one step attained
vast power, who has renounced his moral sentiment, and settled it with
himself that he will no longer stick at anything. It was said of Sir
William Pepperel, one of the worthies of New England, that, "put him
where you might, he commanded, and saw what he willed come to pass."
Julius Caesar said to Metellus, when that tribune interfered to hinder
him from entering the Roman treasury, "Young man, it is easier for me
to put you to death than to say that I will"; and the youth yielded.
In earlier days, he was taken by pirates. What then? He threw himself
into their ship; established the most extraordinary intimacies; told
them stories; declaimed to them; if they did not applaud his speeches,
he threatened them with hanging,--which he performed afterwards,--and,
in a short time, was master of all on board. A man this is who cannot
be disconcerted, and so can never play his last card, but has a
reserve of power when he has hit his mark. With a serene face, he
subverts a kingdom. What is told of him is miraculous; it affects men
so. The confidence of men in him is lavish, and he changes the face of
the world, and histories, poems, and new philosophies arise to account
for him. A supreme commander over all his passions and affections; but
the secret of his ruling is higher than that. It is the power of
Nature running without impediment from the brain and will into the
hands. Men and women are his game. Where they are, he cannot be
without resource. "Whoso can speak well," said Luther, "is a man." It
was men of this stamp that the Grecian States used to ask of Sparta
for generals. They did not send to Lacedaemon for troops, but they
said, "Send us a commander"; and Pausanias, or Gylippus, or Brasidas,
or Agis, was despatched by the Ephors.
It is easy to illustrate this overpowering personality by these
examples of soldiers and kings; but there are men of the most peaceful
way of life, and peaceful principle, who are felt, wherever they go,
as sensibly as a July sun or a December frost,--men who, if they
speak, are heard, though they speak in a whisper,--who, when they act,
act effectually, and what they do is imitated: and these examples may
be found on very humble platforms, as well as on high ones.
In old countries, a high money-value is set on the services of men who
have achieved a personal distinction. He who has points to carry must
hire, not a skilful attorney, but a commanding person. A barrister in
England is reputed to have made twenty or thirty thousand pounds _per
annum_ in representing the claims of railroad companies before
committees of the House of Commons. His clients pay not so much for
legal as for manly accomplishments,--for courage, conduct, and a
commanding social position, which enable him to make their claims
heard and respected.
I know very well, that, among our cool and calculating people, where
every man mounts guard over himself, where heats and panics and
abandonments are quite out of the system, there is a good deal of
skepticism as to extraordinary influence. To talk of an overpowering
mind rouses the same jealousy and defiance which one may observe round
a table where anybody is recounting the marvellous anecdotes of
mesmerism. Each auditor puts a final stroke to the discourse by
exclaiming, "Can he mesmerize _me_?" So each man inquires if any
orator can change _his_ convictions.
But does any one suppose himself to be quite impregnable? Does he
think that not possibly a man may come to him who shall persuade him
out of his most settled determination?--for example, good sedate
citizen as he is, to make a fanatic of him? or, if he is penurious, to
squander money for some purpose he now least thinks of? or, if he is a
prudent, industrious person, to forsake his work, and give days and
weeks to a new interest? No, he defies any one, every one. Ah! he is
thinking of resistance, and of a different turn from his own. But what
if one should come of the same turn of mind as his own, and who sees
much farther on his own way than he? A man who has tastes like mine,
but in greater power, will rule me any day, and make me love my ruler.
Thus it is not powers of speech that we primarily consider under this
word Eloquence, but the power that, being present, gives them their
perfection, and, being absent, leaves them a merely superficial value.
Eloquence is the appropriate organ of the highest personal energy.
Personal ascendency may exist with or without adequate talent for its
expression. It is as surely felt as a mountain or a planet; but when
it is weaponed with a power of speech, it seems first to become truly
human, works actively in all directions, and supplies the imagination
with fine materials.
This circumstance enters into every consideration of the power of
orators, and is the key to all their effects. In the assembly, you
shall find the orator and the audience in perpetual balance, and the
predominance of either is indicated by the choice of topic. If the
talents for speaking exist, but not the strong personality, then there
are good speakers who perfectly receive and express the will of the
audience, and the commonest populace is flattered by hearing its low
mind returned to it with every ornament which happy talent can add.
But if there be personality in the orator, the face of things changes.
The audience is thrown into the attitude of pupil, follows like a
child its preceptor, and hears what he has to say. It is as if, amidst
the king's council at Madrid, Ximenes urged that an advantage might be
gained of France, and Mendoza that Flanders might be kept down, and
Columbus, being introduced, was interrogated whether his geographical
knowledge could aid the cabinet, and he can say nothing to one party
or to the other, but he can show how all Europe can be diminished and
reduced under the king by annexing to Spain a continent as large as
six or seven Europes.
This balance between the orator and the audience is expressed in what
is called the pertinence of the speaker. There is always a rivalry
between the orator and the occasion, between the demands of the hour
and the prepossession of the individual. The emergency which has
convened the meeting is usually of more importance than anything the
debaters have in their minds, and therefore becomes imperative to
them. But if one of them, have anything of commanding necessity in his
heart, how speedily he will find vent for it, and with the applause of
the assembly! This balance is observed in the privatest intercourse.
Poor Tom never knew the time when the present occurrence was so
trivial that he could tell what was passing in his mind without being
checked for unseasonable speech; but let Bacon speak, and wise men
would rather listen, though the revolution of kingdoms was on foot. I
have heard it reported of an eloquent preacher, whose voice is not yet
forgotten in this city, that, on occasions of death or tragic
disaster, which overspread the congregation with gloom, he ascended
the pulpit with more than his usual alacrity, and, turning to his
favorite lessons of devout and jubilant thankfulness, "Let us praise
the Lord," carried audience, mourners, and mourning along with him,
and swept away all the impertinence of private sorrow with his
hosannas and songs of praise. Pepys says of Lord Clarendon, with whom
"he is mad in love," on his return from a conference, "I did never
observe how much easier a man do speak when he knows all the company
to be below him, than in him; for, though he spoke indeed excellent
well, yet his manner and freedom of doing it, as if he played with it,
and was informing only all the rest of the company, was mighty
pretty."[_Diary_, I. 469.]
This rivalry between the orator and the occasion is inevitable, and
the occasion always yields to the eminence of the speaker; for a great
man is the greatest of occasions. Of course, the interest of the
audience and of the orator conspire. It is well with them only when
his influence is complete; then only they are well pleased.
Especially, he consults his power by making instead of taking his
theme. If he should attempt to instruct the people in that which they
already know, he would fail; but, by making them wise in that which he
knows, he has the advantage of the assembly every moment. Napoleon's
tactics of marching on the angle of an army, and always presenting a
superiority of numbers, is the orator's secret also.
The several talents which the orator employs, the splendid weapons
which went to the equipment of Demosthenes, of AEchines, of Demades,
the natural orator, of Fox, of Pitt, of Patrick Henry, of Adams, of
Mirabeau, deserve a special enumeration. We must not quite omit to
name the principal pieces.
The orator, as we have seen, must be a substantial personality. Then,
first, he must have power of statement,--must have the fact, and know
how to tell it. In any knot of men conversing on any subject, the
person who knows most about it will have the ear of the company, if he
wishes it, and lead the conversation,--no matter what genius or
distinction other men there present may have; and in any public
assembly, him who has the facts, and can and will state them, people
will listen to, though he is otherwise ignorant, though he is hoarse
and ungraceful, though he stutters and screams.
In a court of justice, the audience are impartial; they really wish to
sift the statements, and know what the truth is. And, in the
examination of witnesses, there usually leap out, quite unexpectedly,
three or four stubborn words or phrases which are the pith and fate of
the business, which sink into the ear of all parties, and stick there,
and determine the cause. All the rest is repetition and qualifying;
and the court and the county have really come together to arrive at
these three or four memorable expressions, which betrayed the mind and
meaning of somebody.
In every company, the man with the fact is like the guide you hire to
lead your party up a mountain or through a difficult country. He may
not compare with any of the party in mind, or breeding, or courage, or
possessions, but he is much more important to the present need than
any of them. That is what we go to the court-house for,--the statement
of the fact, and the elimination of a general fact, the real relation
of all the parties; and it is the certainty with which, indifferently
in any affair that is well handled, the truth stares us in the face,
through all the disguises that are put upon it,--a piece of the
well-known human life,--that makes the interest of a court-room to the
I remember, long ago, being attracted by the distinction of the
counsel, and the local importance of the cause, into the court-room.
The prisoner's counsel were the strongest and cunningest lawyers in
the Commonwealth. They drove the attorney for the State from corner to
corner, taking his reasons from under him, and reducing him to
silence, but not to submission. When hard-pressed, he revenged
himself, in his turn, on the judge, by requiring the court to define
what salvage was. The court, thus pushed, tried words, and said
everything it could think of to fill the time, supposing cases, and
describing duties of insurers, captains, pilots, and miscellaneous
sea-officers that are or might be,--like a schoolmaster puzzled by a
hard sum, who reads the context with emphasis. But all this flood not
serving the cuttle-fish to get away in, the horrible shark of the
district-attorney being still there, grimly awaiting with his "The
court must define,"--the poor court pleaded its inferiority. The
superior court must establish the law for this, and it read away
piteously the decisions of the Supreme Court, but read to those who
had no pity. The judge was forced at last to rule something, and the
lawyers saved their rogue under the fog of a definition. The parts
were so well cast and discriminated, that it was an interesting game
to watch. The government was well enough represented. It was stupid,
but it had a strong will and possession, and stood on that to the
last. The judge had a task beyond his preparation, yet his position
remained real; he was there to represent a great reality, the justice
of states, which we could well enough see beetling over his head, and
which his trifling talk nowise affected, and did not impede, since he
was entirely well-meaning.
The statement of the fact, however, sinks before the statement of the
law, which requires immeasurably higher powers, and is a rarest gift,
being in all great masters one and the same thing,--in lawyers,
nothing technical, but always some piece of common sense, alike
interesting to laymen as to clerks. Lord Mansfield's merit is the
merit of common sense. It is the same quality we admire in Aristotle,
Montaigne, Cervantes, or in Samuel Johnson, or Franklin. Its
application to law seems quite accidental. Each of Mansfield's famous
decisions contains a level sentence or two, which hit the mark. His
sentences are not always finished to the eye, but are finished to the
mind. The sentences are involved, but a solid proposition is set
forth, a true distinction is drawn. They come from and they go to the
sound human understanding; and I read, without surprise, that the
black-letter lawyers of the day sneered at his "equitable decisions,"
as if they were not also learned. This, indeed, is what speech is for,
to make the statement; and all that is called eloquence seems to me of
little use, for the most part, to those who have it, but inestimable
to such as have something to say.
Next to the knowledge of the fact and its law, is method, which
constitutes the genius and efficiency of all remarkable men. A crowd
of men go up to Faneuil Hall; they are all pretty well acquainted with
the object of the meeting; they have all read the facts in the same
newspapers. The orator possesses no information which his hearers have
not; yet he teaches them to see the thing with his eyes. By the new
placing, the circumstances acquire new solidity and worth. Every fact
gains consequence by his naming it, and trifles become important. His
expressions fix themselves in men's memories, and fly from mouth to
mouth. His mind has some new principle of order. Where he looks, all
things fly into their places. What will he say next? Let this man
speak, and this man only. By applying the habits of a higher style of
thought to the common affairs of this world, he introduces beauty and
magnificence wherever he goes. Such a power was Burke's, and of this
genius we have had some brilliant examples in our own political and
Imagery. The orator must be, to a certain extent, a poet. We are such
imaginative creatures, that nothing so works on the human mind,
barbarous or civil, as a trope. Condense some daily experience into a
glowing symbol, and an audience is electrified. They feel as if they
already possessed some new right and power over a fact, which they can
detach, and so completely master in thought. It is a wonderful aid to
the memory, which carries away the image, and never loses it. A
popular assembly, like the House of Commons, or the French Chamber, or
the American Congress, is commanded by these two powers,--first by a
fact, then by skill of statement. Put the argument into a concrete
shape, into an image, some hard phrase, round and solid as a ball,
which they can see and handle and carry home with them, and the cause
is half won.
Statement, method, imagery, selection, tenacity of memory, power of
dealing with facts, of illuminating them, of sinking them by ridicule
or by diversion of the mind, rapid generalization, humor, pathos, are
keys which the orator holds; and yet these fine gifts are not
eloquence, and do often hinder a man's attainment of it. And if we
come to the heart of the mystery, perhaps we should say that the truly
eloquent man is a sane man with power to communicate his sanity. If
you arm the man with the extraordinary weapons of this art, give him a
grasp of facts, learning, quick fancy, sarcasm, splendid allusion,
interminable illustration,--all these talents, so potent and charming,
have an equal power to insnare and mislead the audience and the
orator. His talents are too much for him, his horses run away with
him; and people always perceive whether you drive, or whether the
horses take the bits in their teeth and run. But these talents are
quite something else when they are subordinated and serve him; and we
go to Washington, or to Westminster Hall, or might well go round the
world, to see a man who drives, and is not run away with,--a man who,
in prosecuting great designs, has an absolute command of the means of
representing his ideas, and uses them only to express these; placing
facts, placing men; amid the inconceivable levity of human beings,
never for an instant warped from his erectness. There is for every man
a statement possible of that truth which he is most unwilling to
receive,--a statement possible, so broad and so pungent, that he
cannot get away from it, but must either bend to it or die of it. Else
there would be no such word as eloquence, which means this. The
listener cannot hide from himself that something has been shown him
and the whole world, which he did not wish to see; and, as he cannot
dispose of it, it disposes of him. The history of public men and
affairs in America will readily furnish tragic examples of this fatal
For the triumphs of the art somewhat more must still be required,
namely, a reinforcing of man from events, so as to give the double
force of reason and destiny. In transcendent eloquence, there was ever
some crisis in affairs, such as could deeply engage the man to the
cause he pleads, and draw all this wide power to a point. For the
explosions and eruptions, there must be accumulations of heat
somewhere, beds of ignited anthracite at the centre. And in cases
where profound conviction has been wrought, the eloquent man is he who
is no beautiful speaker, but who is inwardly drunk with a certain
belief. It agitates and tears him, and perhaps almost bereaves him of
the power of articulation. Then it rushes from him as in short, abrupt
screams, in torrents of meaning. The possession the subject has of his
mind is so entire, that it insures an order of expression which is the
order of Nature itself, and so the order of greatest force, and
inimitable by any art. And the main distinction between him and other
well-graced actors is the conviction, communicated by every word, that
his mind is contemplating a whole and inflamed by the contemplation of
the whole, and that the words and sentences uttered by him, however
admirable, fall from him as unregarded parts of that terrible whole
which he sees, and which he means that you shall see. Add to this
concentration a certain regnant calmness, which, in all the tumult,
never utters a premature syllable, but keeps the secret of its means
and method; and the orator stands before the people as a demoniacal
power to whose miracles they have no key. This terrible earnestness
makes good the ancient superstition of the hunter, that the bullet
will hit its mark, which is first dipped in the marksman's blood.
Eloquence must be grounded on the plainest narrative. Afterwards, it
may warm itself until it exhales symbols of every kind and color,
speaks only through the most poetic forms; but, first and last, it
must still be at bottom a biblical statement of fact. The orator is
thereby an orator, that he keeps his feet ever on a fact. Thus only is
he invincible. No gifts, no graces, no power of wit or learning or
illustration will make any amends for want of this. All audiences are
just to this point. Fame of voice or of rhetoric will carry people a
few times to hear a speaker, but they soon begin to ask, "What is he
driving at?" and if this man does not stand for anything, he will be
deserted. A good upholder of anything which they believe, a
fact-speaker of any kind, they will long follow; but a pause in the
speaker's own character is very properly a loss of attraction. The
preacher enumerates his classes of men, and I do not find my place
therein; I suspect, then, that no man does. Every thing is my cousin,
and whilst he speaks things, I feel that he is touching some of my
relations, and I am uneasy; but whilst he deals in words, we are
released from attention. If you would lift me, you must be on higher
ground. If you would liberate me, you must be free. If you would
correct my false view of facts,--hold up to me the same facts in the
true order of thought, and I cannot go back from the new conviction.
The power of Chatham, of Pericles, of Luther, rested on this strength
of character, which, because it did not and could not fear anybody,
made nothing of their antagonists, and became sometimes exquisitely
provoking and sometimes terrific to these.
We are slenderly furnished with anecdotes of these men, nor can we
help ourselves by those heavy books in which their discourses are
reported. Some of them were writers, like Burke; but most of them were
not, and no record at all adequate to their fame remains. Besides,
what is best is lost, the fiery life of the moment. But the conditions
for eloquence always exist. It is always dying out of famous places,
and appearing in corners. Wherever the polarities meet, wherever the
fresh moral sentiment, the instinct of freedom and duty, come in
direct opposition to fossil conservatism and the thirst of gain, the
spark will pass. The resistance to slavery in this country has been a
fruitful nursery of orators. The natural connection by which it drew
to itself a train of moral reforms, and the slight yet sufficient
party organization it offered, reinforced the city with new blood from
the woods and mountains. Wild men, John Baptists, Hermit Peters, John
Knoxes, utter the savage sentiment of Nature in the heart of
commercial capitals. They send us every year some piece of aboriginal
strength, some tough oak-stick of a man who is not to be silenced or
insulted or intimidated by a mob, because he is more mob than
they,--one who mobs the mob,--some sturdy countryman, on whom neither
money, nor politeness, nor hard words, nor eggs, nor blows, nor
brickbats, make any impression. He is fit to meet the bar-room wits
and bullies; he is a wit and a bully himself, and something more; he
is a graduate of the plough, and the stub-hoe, and the bush-whacker;
knows all the secrets of swamp and snow-bank, and has nothing to learn
of labor or poverty or the rough of farming. His hard head went
through in childhood the drill of Calvinism, with text and
mortification, so that he stands in the New England assembly a purer
bit of New England than any, and flings his sarcasms right and left.
He has not only the documents in his pocket to answer all cavils and
to prove all his positions, but he has the eternal reason in his head.
This man scornfully renounces your civil organizations,--county, or
city, or governor, or army,--is his own navy and artillery, judge and
jury, legislature and executive. He has learned his lessons in a
bitter school. Yet, if the pupil be of a texture to bear it, the best
university that can be recommended to a man of ideas is the gauntlet
of the mobs.
He who will train himself to mastery in this science of persuasion
must lay the emphasis of education, not on popular arts, but on
character and insight Let him see that his speech is not differenced
from action; that, when he has spoken, he has not done nothing, nor
done wrong, but has cleared his own skirts, has engaged himself to
wholesome exertion. Let him look on opposition as opportunity. He
cannot be defeated or put down. There is a principle of resurrection
in him, an immortality of purpose. Men are averse and hostile, to give
value to their suffrages. It is not the people that are in fault for
not being convinced, but he that cannot convince them. He should mould
them, armed as he is with the reason and love which are also the core
of their nature. He is not to neutralize their opposition, but he is
to convert them into fiery apostles and publishers of the same wisdom.
The highest platform of eloquence is the moral sentiment. It is what
is called affirmative truth, and has the property of invigorating the
hearer; and it conveys a hint of our eternity, when he feels himself
addressed on grounds which will remain when everything else is taken,
and which have no trace of time or place or party. Everything hostile
is stricken down in the presence of the sentiments; their majesty is
felt by the most obdurate. It is observable, that, as soon as one acts
for large masses, the moral element will and must be allowed for, will
and must work; and the men least accustomed to appeal to these
sentiments invariably recall them when they address nations. Napoleon,
even, must accept and use it as he can.
It is only to these simple strokes that the highest power belongs,
when a weak human hand touches, point by point, the eternal beams and
rafters on which the whole structure of Nature and society is laid. In
this tossing sea of delusion, we feel with our feet the adamant; in
this dominion of chance, we find a principle of permanence. For I do
not accept that definition of Isocrates, that the office of his art is
to make the great small and the small great; but I esteem this to be
its perfection,--when the orator sees through all masks to the eternal
scale of truth, in such sort that he can hold up before the eyes of
men the fact of today steadily to that standard, thereby making the
great great and the small small,--which is the true way to astonish
and to reform mankind.
All the first orators of the world have been grave men, relying on
this reality. One thought the philosophers of Demosthenes's own time
found running through all his orations,--this, namely, that "virtue
secures its own success." "To stand on one's own feet" Heeren finds
the keynote to the discourses of Demosthenes, as of Chatham.
Eloquence, like every other art, rests on laws the most exact and
determinate. It is the best speech of the best soul. It may well stand
as the exponent of all that is grand and immortal in the mind. If it
do not so become an instrument, but aspires to be somewhat of itself,
and to glitter for show, it is false and weak. In its right exercise,
it is an elastic, unexhausted power,--who has sounded, who has
estimated it?--expanding with the expansion of our interests and
affections. Its great masters, whilst they valued every help to its
attainment, and thought no pains too great which contributed in any
manner to further it, and, resembling the Arabian warrior of fame, who
wore seventeen weapons in his belt, and in personal combat used them
all occasionally,--yet undervalued all means, never permitted any
talent, neither voice, rhythm, poetic power, anecdote, sarcasm, to
appear for show, but were grave men, who preferred their integrity to
their talent, and esteemed that object for which they toiled, whether
the prosperity of their country, or the laws, or a reformation, or
liberty of speech or of the press, or letters, or morals, as above the
whole world, and themselves also.
* * * * *
THE KINLOCH ESTATE, AND HOW IT WAS SETTLED.
The disappearance of Lucy Ransom did not long remain a secret; it rang
through the town, and was accompanied by all sorts of rumors. Some
thought she had eloped; but the prevailing opinion was, that she had
been tempted into a fatal error, and then, in the frenzy of remorse
and shame, had destroyed herself, in order to hide her disgrace from
the world. Slight hints were now recalled by many of the poor girl's
acquaintance,--hints of love, unrequited and hopeless,--of base and
unfeeling treachery,--of remediless sorrow, appealing to the deepest
sympathy, and not the less because her heart found utterance in rude
and homely phrases. This idea of self-destruction gained the more
currency because no one had seen the least trace of the girl after the
twilight of the preceding night, and it was deemed improbable that she
could have made her way on foot the whole distance to the
railway-station without being seen by some one. And when it was
reported that a boy had found a shawl not far from the dam, the public
became so much aroused that it was determined to make a thorough
search. The pond and canal were dragged, and the bank of the river
carefully explored for miles below the town. The search was kept up
far into the night, the leaders being provided with pitch-pine
torches. At every bend, or eddy, or sand-bar, or fallen tree, where it
might be supposed that a drifting body would be stopped, the boldest
breathed faster, and started at the first glimpse of a white stone or
a peeled and bleached poplar-trunk, or other similar object, fearing
it might prove to be what they expected, yet dreaded to see. But it
was in vain. Lucy, whether alive or dead, was not to be found. Her
grandmother hobbled down to the village, moaning piteously; but she
could get little consolation, least of all from Mrs. Kinloch. This
incident made a lasting impression. The village boys, who remembered
the search with shuddering horror, avoided the river, and even Hugh
found means to persuade Mildred to give up the pleasant road on its
bank and take the hill district for their afternoon rides.
Meanwhile the time for the trial of the ejectment suit was rapidly
approaching, and it was difficult to say whether plaintiff or
defendant showed the more signs of anxiety. Mr. Hardwick's life seemed
to be bound, up in his shop; it was dear to him in the memory of long
years of cheerful labor; it was his pride as well as his dependence;
he had grown old by its flaming forge, and he could never feel at home
in any other spot. "Young trees may be moved," he would say; "an old
one dies in transplanting." It was noticed by all his friends that the
stoop in his shoulders was more decided, his step less elastic, and
his ordinary flow of spirits checked.
Mrs. Kinloch, too, grew older unaccountably fast. Her soft brown hair
began to whiten, her features grew sharp, and her expression quick,
watchful, and intense. Upon being spoken to, she would start and
tremble in her whole frame; her cheeks would glow momentarily, and
then become waxen again.
Impatient at the slow progress of her son's wooing, and impelled now
by a new fear that all her plans might be frustrated, if Mildred
should happen to hear any rumor touching the cause of Lucy's
disappearance, Mrs. Kinloch proposed to herself to assist him more
openly than she had hitherto done--She was not aware that anything
implicating Hugh had been reported, but she knew enough of human
nature to be sure that some one would be peering into the mystery,--a
mystery which she divined by instinct, but had not herself dared to
explore. So, finding a favorable opportunity, she sat down beside
Mildred, determined to read the secret of her soul; for she made no
question that she could scan her, as she might the delicate machinery
of the French clock, noiselessly moving under its crystal cover.
Mildred shuddered unconsciously, as she felt her step-mother's thin
fingers gently smoothing the hair upon her temples; still more, as the
pale and quivering lips were pressed to her forehead. The caress was
not a feigned tenderness. Mrs. Kinloch really loved the girl, with
such love as she had to bestow; and if her manner had been latterly
abstracted or harsh, it was from preoccupation. She was soon satisfied
that the suspicion she dreaded had not found place in the girl's mind.
Leading the way by imperceptible approaches, she spoke in her softest
tones of her joy at Hugh's altered manners, her hopes of his future,
and especially of her desire to have him leave the navy and settle on
"How happy we might be, Hugh and we," she said, "if we could live here
in this comfortable home, and feel that nothing but death would break
up the circle! How much your dear father counted on the happiness in
store for him in growing old with his children around him!--and would
he not be rejoiced to see us cling together, bound by ties as strong
as life, and cherishing his memory by our mutual affection?"
Mildred replied in some commonplaces,--rather wondering at the vein of
sentiment, and in no way suspecting the object which her step-mother
had in view.
Mrs. Kinloch continued:--"Hugh needs some new attraction now to detain
him; he is tired of the sea, but he finds the village dull. He is just
of the age to think of looking for some romantic attachment; but you
know how few girls there are here whose manners and education are such
as to please a cultivated man."
Mildred grew uneasy, but remained silent. Mrs. Kinloch was every
moment more eager in her manner; a novice, waiting for the turn of the
cards in _rouge et noir_, would not have manifested a greater anxiety
as to the result. But the girl looked out of the window, and did not
see the compressed lips, dilated nostrils, and glittering eyes, that
gave such a contradiction to the bland words.
"Mildred, my daughter," she continued, "I have no secrets from
you,--least of all about matters that concern us both. Don't you see
what I would say? Don't you know what would make our circle complete,
inseparable? Pardon the boldness of a fond mother, whose only desire
is to see her children happy."
Mildred felt a tear dropping upon the hand which Mrs. Kinloch held
with a passionate grasp. She felt the powerful magnetism which the
woman exerted upon her, and she trembled, but still kept silent.
"It is for Hugh that I speak. He loves you. Has he not told you so?"
"I do not wish to talk with you about it," said Mildred.
"But I have a right, as his mother and your guardian, to know. I
should be wanting in my duty, if I suffered your happiness to be
perilled for want of a clear understanding between you. Hugh is proud
and sensitive, and you bashful and just the least foolish; so that you
are at cross purposes."
"Hugh fully understands my feelings towards him."
"You have given him encouragement?" she asked, eagerly.
"None whatever: it would have been wrong in me to do so."
"Wrong to love him! Why, he is your brother only in name."
"Wrong to encourage him in a love I do not and cannot return," replied
Mildred, with a mighty effort, at the same time disengaging her hand.
Mrs. Kinloch could not repress a feeling of admiration, even in her
despair, as she saw the clear, brave glance, the heightened color, and
the heaving bosom of the girl.
"But, in time, you may think differently," she said, almost piteously.
"I wished to be spared this pain, mother," Mildred replied, trembling
at her own boldness, "but you will not let me; and I must tell you,
kindly, but decidedly, that I never could marry Hugh under any
Her mother did not wince at the rebuff, but followed on even closer.
"And why? Who is there more manly, well-educated, kindly, dutiful,
"I don't wish to analyze his character; probably we shouldn't
altogether agree in our judgment; but it is enough that I don't feel
in the least attracted by him, and that I could not love him, if he
were all that you imagine."
"Then you love another!" said Mrs. Kinloch, fiercely.
Mildred was excessively agitated; but, though her knees trembled, her
voice was clear and soft as it had been. "Yes, I do love another; and
I don't hesitate to avow it."
"That blacksmith's upstart?" in a still louder key.
"You mean Mark Davenport, probably, who deserves more respectful
"Brought up in coal-dust,--the spoiled and forward pet of a foolish
old stutterer, who depends for his bread on his dirty work, and who,
if he had only his own, would have to leave even the hovel he works
in." It was fearful to see how these contemptuous words were hissed
out by the infuriated woman.
Mildred was courageous, but she had not passed through the discipline
that had developed her step-mother's faculties. So she burst into
tears, saying, amidst her sobs, that Mark was allowed by all who knew
him to be a young man of promise; that, for herself, she didn't care
how much coal-dust he had been through,--_that_ would wash off; that,
at any rate, she loved him, and would never marry anybody else.
Mrs. Kinloch began to consider. Anger had whirled her away once; a
second explosion might create an irreparable breach between them.
"Don't lay up what I have said, Mildred," she urged, in a mild voice.
"If I object to your choice, it is because I am proud of you and want
you to look high. You can marry whom you choose; no rank or station
need be considered above you. Come, don't cry, dear!"
But Mildred refused to be soothed. She could not sympathize with the
tropical nature, that smiled like sunshine at one moment, and the next
burst into the fury of a tornado. She pushed off the beseeching hand,
turned from the offered endearments, and, with reddened, tear-stained
face, left the room.
Hugh presently passed through the hall. "Well, mother," said he, "I
suppose you think you've done it now."
"Go about your business, you foolish boy!" she retorted. "Go and try
something that you do know about. You can snare a partridge, or shoot
a woodcock, perhaps!"
Mildred had now no peace; after what had happened, she could not meet
Hugh and his mother with any composure. The scheming woman had risked
everything in the appeal she made to her daughter,--risked everything,
and lost. Nothing could restore harmony; neither could forget the
struggle and live the old quiet life. Mrs. Kinloch, always pursued by
anxiety, was one day full of courage, fruitful in plans and resources,
and the next day cast down into the pit of despair. Now she clung to
her first hope, believing that time, patience, kindness, would soften
Mildred's resolution; then, seeing the blank indifference with which
she treated Hugh, she racked her invention to provide other means of
attaining her end.
Again, the thought of her inexplicable loss came over her, and she was
frightened to madness; creeping chills alternating with cold sweats
tortured her. It was a mystery she could not penetrate. She could not
but implicate Lucy: but then Lucy might be in her grave. After every
circumstance had passed in review, her suspicions inevitably returned
and fastened upon her lawyer, Clamp. She almost wished he would come
to see her again; for he, being naturally sulky at his first
reception, had left the haughty woman severely alone. She determined
to send for him, on business, and then to try her fascinations upon
him, to draw him out, and see if he held her secret.
"Aha!" thought the Squire, as he received the message, "she comes to
her senses! Give a woman like Mrs. Kinloch time enough to consider,
and she will not turn her back on her true interest. O Theophilus, you
are not by any means a fool! Slow and steady, slow and steady you go!
Let the frisky woman _appear_ to have her way,--you will win in the
The wig and best suit were brushed anew, water was brought into
requisition for the visible portions of his person, and, with his most
engaging expression arranged upon his parchment face, he presented
himself before the widow.
There was a skirmish of small talk, during which Mr. Clamp was placid
and self-conscious, while his _vis-a-vis_, though smiling and
apparently at ease, was yet alert and excited,--darting furtive
glances, that would have startled him like flashes of sunlight
reflected from a mirror, if he had not been shielded by his own
"You-have-sent-for-me-on-business,-I-believe," said the lawyer, in a
tone continuous and bland as a stream of honey.
"Yes, Sir; I have great confidence in your judgment, and I know that
you are devoted to the interests of our family. My poor husband always
esteemed you highly."
"Oh, Ma'am! you do me honor!"
"If I have not consulted you about our affairs of late, it is because
I have had troubles which I did not wish to burden you with."
"We all have our troubles, Mrs. Kinloch."
"They are very sad to bear,--but profitable, nevertheless. But I'm
sure you must be wonderfully supported in your trials; I never saw you
And truly, her thin and mobile lips were of a strangely bright coral,
and her usually wan cheeks wore a delicate flush, lending her a
beauty, not youthful, to be sure, but yet fascinating. One might
desire to see an eye less intense and restless, but he would rarely
see a woman of forty so charming.
"You notice my color," said Mrs. Kinloch, mournfully, and with a faint
smile; "it's only the effect of a headache. I am far enough from
"Indeed!" was the sympathetic reply.
"I have met with a great loss, Mr. Clamp,--some papers of the greatest
importance. I was going to consult you about them."
"In which I got ahead of you," thought he.
"Now, ever since the disappearance of Lucy, I have thought she had
something to do with them. I never went to the secretary, but she was
sure to be spying about. And I believe she knew about my affairs as
well as I do myself."
"Or I," mentally ejaculated the lawyer,--meanwhile keeping as close as
She continued,--"As the girl was ignorant, and without any interest in
the matter more than that of curiosity, I am puzzled to account for
"'Tis strange, truly!"
"Yes, I'm sure she must be only the tool of some shrewder person."
"You alarm me! Who can it be?"
"Perhaps Mildred, or some one who is plotting for her. The Hardwicks,
you know, expect she will marry Mark Davenport."
"Do they, indeed? Well, now, that's a shrewd conjecture. Then you
think Lucy didn't drown herself?"
"She? By no means!"
"But what can I do in the matter, Mrs. Kinloch?"
"We must find Lucy, or else discover her confidant,"--looking fixedly
"Not very easy to do," said he, never once wincing under her scrutiny.
"Not easy for me. But those that hide can find. Nothing is beyond
search, if one really tries."
During this cross-examination, Mr. Clamp's premeditated gallantry had
been kept in the background; but he was determined not to let the
present opportunity pass by; he therefore turned the current of
"You have not told me, Mrs. Kinloch, _what_ the loss is; so I cannot
judge of its importance. You don't wish to have any more repositories
of secrets than are necessary; but I think you will readily see that
our interests lie in the same direction. If the girl can be found and
the papers recovered by anybody, I am the one to do it. If that is
impossible, however, the next thing is to be prepared for what may
happen; in either emergency, you can hardly do better than to accept
"Of course, I depend entirely upon you."
"We may as well understand each other," said the lawyer, forgetting
the wily ways by which he had intended to approach her. "I have
certain views, myself, which I think run parallel with yours; and if I
am able to carry you and your property safely through these
difficulties, I think you will not scruple to----
"To pay you to your heart's content," she broke in, quickly. "No, I
shall not scruple, unless you ask more than half the estate."
"I ask for nothing but yourself," said he, with sudden boldness.
"That is to say, you want the whole of it."
"Charming woman! don't, pray, compel me to talk in this language of
traffic. It is you I desire,--not the estate. If there is enough to
make you more comfortable than would be possible with my means, I
shall be happy for your sake."
Her lips writhed and her eyes shot fire. Should she breathe the scorn
she felt, and brave the worst? Or should she temporize? Time might
bring about a change, when she could safely send the mercenary suitor
back to his dusty and cobwebbed office.
"We do understand each other," she said, slowly. "This is a matter to
think of. I had never thought to marry again, and I cannot answer your
delicate proposal now. Let me have a week to consider."
"Couldn't we arrange the matter just as well now? I beg your pardon,
Ma'am, if I seem too bold."
"Oh, your youthful ardor and impetuosity! To be sure, one must forgive
the impatience of a lover in his first passion! But you must wait,
Mr. Clamp laughed. It was a good joke, he thought.
"I must bid you good afternoon, Squire Clamp. I have made my headache
worse by talking on a subject I was not prepared for."
So Mr. Clamp was bowed out. He did not clearly understand her quick
and subtle movements, but he felt sure of his game in the end. The
scornful irony that had played about him like electricity he had not
When he was gone, the woman's worst enemy would have pitied her
distress. She believed more than ever that Clamp had used Lucy to
abstract her papers, and that he now would hold his power over her to
bring about the hated marriage. Her firmness gave way; she sank on the
sofa and wept like a child. Would that she might yet retreat! But no,
the way is closed up behind her. She must go on to her destiny.
Mark Davenport was prosperous in all his undertakings. His position in
the school did not give much scope to his ambition, but the salary he
received was ample enough to pay his expenses, while the duties were
not so onerous as to engross all his time. All his leisure was given
to literary pursuits. He had many times thought he would relinquish
the drudgery of teaching, and support himself by his pen; but he
remembered the maxim of Scott,--that literature was a good staff, but
a poor crutch,--and he stuck to his school. As he grew into a
practised writer, he became connected with the staff of a daily
newspaper in the great city, furnishing leading articles when called
upon, and he soon acquired a position of influence among his
associates. He had maintained a correspondence with Mildred, and was
looking forward to the time when he should make a visit to his native
town, hoping then to be so well established in the world that he might
be able to bring her back with him as his bride. Every thought centred
in her. He coveted fame, wealth, position, only for her sake; and
stimulated by this thought, he had made exertions that would have
broken down a man less vigorous and less resolute.
He received a letter from Innisfield one day, after a long
interval,--so long that he had become uneasy, and imagined every kind
of evil as the cause of delay. He broke the seal; it was not from
Mildred, but from his cousin Lizzie. These were the contents:--
"My dear Mark,--I suppose you may have been anxious before this, at
not hearing from us; but the truth is, we have not had anything very
pleasant to write, and so have put off sending to you. Father is by no
means well or strong. The lawsuit, which is now likely to go wrong,
has troubled him very much. He has grown thin, he stoops as he walks
about, and by night he coughs terribly. I rarely hear him sing as he
used to. Then Squire Clamp has complained of him before the church,
and you know father is over-sensitive about his relations with 'the
brethren,'--even with those who are trying to ruin him. He is
melancholy enough. I hope he will be better, if he gets through his
difficulties; otherwise I am afraid to think of what may happen.
"You wonder, probably, at not getting a letter from Mildred. Don't be
surprised when I tell you that she has left home and is staying at Mr.
Alford's. Mrs. Kinloch has for a long time wanted her to marry that
hateful Hugh Branning, and became so violent about it that Mildred was
afraid of her. Lucy Ransom, who lived there, ran away a short time
ago, very mysteriously. It seems that the girl had stolen something
from the house, and, after Mildred had plumply refused to marry Hugh,
Mrs. Kinloch charged upon her that she had induced Lucy to steal the
papers or money, or whatever it was. Mrs. Kinloch acted so like an
insane woman, that Mildred would not stay in the house, but ran over
to Mr. Alford's, with only the clothes she wore. She passed by our
house yesterday and told me this hurriedly. I have heard, too, that
Squire Clamp is about to marry Mrs. Kinloch, and that he actually has
procured the license. It's a very strange affair.
"To fill out the account of disagreeable things,--last evening, in one
of the stores, people were talking of Lucy Ransom's fate, (as they
have been for weeks,) when Will Fenton, the cripple, said, 'he guessed
Hugh Branning could tell what had become of her, if he chose.' Hugh,
it seems, heard of the remark, and to-day he went with a dandyish
doctor, belonging to the navy, I believe, and beat the poor cripple
with a horsewhip, most shamefully. I think this violence has turned
suspicion against him.
"I am sorry not to have one pleasant thing to say, except that we all
love you as warmly as ever, and hope to see you soon here. Indeed,
Cousin Mark, I dread to write it,--but if you don't come soon, I think
you will see father only on his last bed.
"Good-bye, dear Mark!
We will waste no time in attempting to analyze Mark's conflicting
emotions, but follow him to Innisfield, whither he went the same day.
Great as was his desire to see his betrothed, from whom he had
received no letter for many weeks, he went first of all, where duty
and affection called, to see the dear old man who had been to him more
than a father.
Mr. Hardwick was sitting in the corner, but rose up with a new energy
as he heard the well-known voice. Mark was not prepared, even by his
cousin's foreboding letter, to see such a change as his uncle
exhibited;--the hollow eyes, the wasted cheeks, the bent figure, the
trembling hands, bore painful testimony to his enfeebled condition. He
held both of Mark's hands in his, and, while his eyes were dim in a
tear-mist, said, with a faltering voice, "Bless you, m-my boy! I'm
glad to see you once more. I thought I might hear my s-summons before
you'd come. You do remember your old uncle!"
Mark could not restrain himself, but wept outright. The old gentleman
sank into his chair, still clasping Mark's hands. Neither could speak,
but they looked towards each other an unutterable tenderness.
At length, controlling the tide of feeling, Mr. Hardwick
said,--"D-don't be cast down, Mark; these tears are not b-bitter, but
f-full of joy. Th-there, now, go and kiss your sister and Lizzie."
The girls appeared wiping their eyes, for they had left the room
overpowered; they greeted Mark affectionately, and then all sat down
about the hearth. Topics enough there were. Mark told of his pursuits
and prospects. The village gossip about the lost servant-girl, (of
whom Mark knew something, but had reasons for silence,) the
approaching marriage of Mrs. Kinloch, and the exile of the heiress
from her own home, were all discussed. After a reasonable time, Mark
excused himself and went to Mr. Alford's, pondering much on the
strange events that had perplexed the usually quiet village. He
reached the house, after a brief walk, and was met by Aunt Mercy, the
portly mistress, but with something less than her accustomed
"Miss Kinloch is not able to see company," she said, "and must be
Mark poured forth a torrent of questions, to which Mrs. Alford
listened, her broad features softening visibly; and at length, with an
apparent effort, she asked him "to come agin to-morrer or the day
The more Mark reflected on Mrs. Alford's behavior, the more he was
puzzled. Had Mildred denied him admission? His own betrothed refuse to
see him! No, he was sure she was sick; and besides, she could not have
heard of his coming. So he soothed himself. But the imps of suspicion
and jealousy still haunted him at intervals, and a more miserable man
than the usually buoyant and sanguine Mark it would be difficult to
The next day, as soon as breakfast was over, Mark, though trying to
cheer up his uncle, was secretly longing for the hour when it would be
proper to present himself at Mr. Alford's. But time does move, albeit
with lagging pace to a lover, and in due season Mark was on his way.
Near the house he met the farmer, who greeted him heartily, and wished
him joy with a knowing smile. Mark took a freer breath; if there was
any difficulty, Mr. Alford certainly did not know it. But then it
occurred to him, that shy young ladies do not often make confidants of
elderly husbandmen in long blue frocks, and his spirits fell again.
Mr. Alford leaned against a fence and threshed his hands to keep them
warm, while he told Mark that "he had been with Mildred privately out
to the Probate Court,--that the case had been stated to the jedge, who
allowed, that, as she was above fourteen, she had a right to choose
her own guardeen,--that he, Alford, was to be put in, in place of the
Squire,--and that then, in his opinion, there would be an overhaulin'
so's to hev things set to rights."
Mark shook the hand, of his good friend warmly, and commended his
"But 'ta'n't best to stan' talkin' with an ol' feller like me," said
the farmer, "when you can do so much better. Jest look!"
Mark turned his head, and through the window of the house saw the
retreating figure of Mildred. He bounded across the yard, opened the
door without knocking, and rushed into the house. She had vanished: no
one was visible but Mrs. Alford, who was cutting up golden pumpkins in
long coils to dry.
"Come, Milly," said the good woman, "'ta'n't no use; he saw ye."
And Mildred appeared, coming slowly out of the buttery.
"Ye see, Mildred felt a little hurt about a letter; but I _knew_ there
was some mistake; so I wa'n't a-goin' to hev ye go off 'thout some
"A letter?--explanation?" said Mark, thoroughly bewildered.
"Here it is," said Mildred, taking a letter from her pocket, still
looking down. Mark hastily took and opened it. The envelope bore
Mildred's address in a hand not unlike his own; the inclosure was a
letter from Mildred to himself, which he now saw for the first time.
"Mildred," said he, holding out his hands, "could you doubt me?"
She covered her face with her apron, but stood irresolute. He looked
again at the letter.
"Why, the clumsy trick, Mildred! This post-office stamp, 'New York,'
is not genuine. Just look! it is a palpable cheat, an imitation made
with a pen. The color did not spread, you see, as ink mixed with oil
does. This letter never left this village. I never saw it
before,--could not have seen it. Do you doubt me now, dear Mildred?"
Even if the evidence had been less convincing, the earnest, heartfelt
tone, the pleading look and gesture, would have satisfied a much more
exacting woman. She sprang towards her lover, and flung her arms about
his neck. The pent-up feeling of days and weeks rushed over her like a
flood, and the presence of Mrs. Alford was forgotten.
Mrs. Alford, it would seem, suddenly thought of something; for,
gathering herself up, she walked off as fast as the laws of
gravitation allowed, exclaiming,--"There! I never did see! Sech hens!
Allus a-flyin' into the kitchen. I wonder now who left that are door
The frightened cackle of the hens, the rattling of pots and pans by
the assiduous housewife in the kitchen, were unheeded by the lovers,
"emparadised in one another's arms." The conversation took too wide a
range and embraced too many trivial details to be set down here. Only
this I may say: they both believed, (as every enamored couple
believes,) that, though other people might cherish the properest
affection for each other, yet no man or woman ever did or could
experience such intense and all-pervading emotion as now throbbed in
their breasts,--in fact, that they had been created to exemplify the
passion, which, before, poets had only imagined. Simple children! they
had only found out what hearts are made for!
The last picture was a pleasant relief in a rather sombre story,
therefore we prefer to commence a stormier scene in a new chapter.
Mark and Mildred were sitting cozily by the ample fireplace,--not at
opposite corners, you may believe,--when there was a warning _ahem!_
at the door, and the sound of feet "a-raspin' on the scraper." Mr.
Alford entered and said, "Milly, your step-mother's team is comin' up
the road." In a moment there was a bustle in the house, but before any
preparation could be made the carriage was at the gate, and Mrs.
Kinloch, accompanied by Squire Clamp, knocked at the door.
"Milly, you go into the kitchen with Mrs. Alford," said the farmer.
"I'll attend to matters for them."
"No, Mr. Alford," she answered; "you are very good, but I think I'll
stay and see them. Shan't I, Mark?"
Mrs. Kinloch and the lawyer entered. She had left off her mourning,
but looked as pale and thoughtful as ever. After the common
courtesies, brief and cool in this case, Mrs. Kinloch made known her
errand. She had been grieved that Mildred should have left her
father's house and remained so long with strangers, and she had now
come to beg her to return home. Mildred replied, that she had not left
home without cause, and that she had no intention of going back at
present. Mrs. Kinloch looked hurt, and said that this unusual conduct,
owing partly to the common and wicked prejudice against step-mothers,
had wounded her sorely, and she hoped Mildred would do her the simple
justice of returning to a mother who loved her, and would make every
sacrifice for her happiness. Mildred said she did not wish to go over
the ground again; she thought she understood the love that had been
shown her; and she did not desire any further sacrifices, such as she
had witnessed. The request was renewed in various forms, but to no
purpose. Then Squire Clamp interposed with great solemnity, saying,
that, if she had forgotten the respect and affection due to the mother
who had fostered her, she ought to know that the law had conferred
upon him, as her guardian, the authority of a father, and he begged
her not to give him the pain of exercising the control which it would
be his bounden duty to use.
Mr. Alford had been uneasy during this conversation, and broke in at
the first pause.
"Well, Square, I guess you'd best wait till 'bout next week-a-Thursday
afore you try to use your 'thority. Probate Court sets on Wednesday,
an' I guess that'll 'bout wind up your business as guardeen."
What a magazine of wrath that shot exploded! The lawyer was dumb for a
moment, but presently he and Mrs. Kinloch both found breath for their
The woman turned first upon Mark. "This is your doing, Sir!"
"You do too much honor to my foresight," he replied. "I am heartily
glad that my good friend here was thoughtful enough and ready to
interfere for the protection of a fatherless girl."
"Insolence!" shouted the lawyer.
"The impertinent puppy!" chimed in the woman.
"Come, come!" said the farmer, "too loud talkin'!"
"Then you uphold this girl in her undutiful behavior, do you?" asked
"You are amenable to the statutes, Sir," said the Squire.
Mr. Alford rose to his feet. "Now you might jest as well get inter yer
kerridge an' drive back ter town," said he; "you won't make one o'
them hairs o' yourn black or white, Square, not by talkin' all day."
The lawyer settled his wig in a foaming rage. "Come, Mrs. Clamp," said
he, "we shall not remain here to be insulted. Let us go; I shall know
how to protect our property, our authority, and honor, from the
assault of adventurers and meddlers."
"I beg your pardon, Sir," said Mark, "but what was the appellation you
gave to the lady just now? You can call us what you like."
"Mrs. Clamp, Sir," he answered, with a portentous emphasis,--"Mrs.
Clamp,--united to me, Sir, this morning, by the Reverend Mr. Rook, in
the holy bands of matrimony."
They swept out of the house. Mildred sank to her chair as if stunned.
"O God!" she said, "_my_ mother and father!"
"Poor gal!" said Mr. Alford, "small comfort you'll hev in sich
parents. But cheer up; you won't need for friends."
She looked up through her tears at Mark's manly face, full now of
sympathy, and blessed the farmer for his words.
Mr. Alford, taking Mark aside, said, "You know about Lucy's runnin'
away, most likely. Wal, now, ef she could be found, there's no knowin'
what might happen; for it's my opinion she knows about Square
Kinloch's affairs. I thought mebbe you might 'a' seen her in York?"
Mark replied, that he did meet her in Broadway late one afternoon, and
that she looked as if she would speak; but that he hurried on, for the
flaunting style of her dress was not calculated to prepossess the
"Good gracious! you don't say so! Seen her yourself? Now do you go
right back to York an' hunt her up--no matter what it costs."
"But my uncle?"
"We'll look arter him."
It was speedily determined, and Mark set out the same day. Meanwhile,
Mildred had promised to go and see Mr. Hardwick and endeavor to make
"It beats all," said Mr. Alford to his wife. "Now 'f he _should_ find
that unfort'nate gal! Wal, wal, I begin to think the Lord does look
arter things some, even in this world."
We leave Squire Clamp and his new wife to their happiness; it would
not be well to lift the decent veil which drops over their household.
The dark, perchance guilty, past,--the stormy present, and the
retribution of the future,--let memory and conscience deal with them!
Never was a little village in greater commotion than Innisfield after
Mark's departure. The succession of events had been such as to engage
the attention of the most indifferent. The mysterious exile of
Mildred, the failing health and spirits of the blacksmith, the new
rumors respecting the fate of Lucy, the sudden and unaccountable
marriage of Mrs. Kinloch, and her fruitless attempt to bring her
daughter back, were all discussed in every house, as well as In places
of public resort. Hugh Branning was soon convinced that the village
was no place for him. He had bravely horsewhipped a cripple, but he
could not stop the tongues of the whole parish, even if he could
protect himself from swift and extempore justice. He gathered his
clothes, and, after a long private conference with his mother, started
before daylight for the railway-station. As he does not appear on the
stage again, we may say here, that, not long after, during a financial
panic in New York, he made a fortune of nearly half a million dollars
by speculating in stocks. He used to tell his friends in after years
that he had "only five thousand to begin with,--the sole property left
him by his lamented parents." He has now a handsome mansion in the
Fifth Avenue, is a conspicuous member of the Rev. Dr. Holdfast's
church, and most zealous against the ill-timed discussions and
philanthropic vagaries of the day. What would he not give to forget
that slowly-moving figure, with swimming eyes, carrying a flaring
candle? How far along the years that feeble light was thrown! He never
went through the hall of his house at night without a shudder,
dreading to catch a glimpse of that sorrowing face.
It was on Tuesday evening, the night preceding the Probate Court to
which Squire Clamp had been cited. Nothing had been heard from Mark,
and his friends were much depressed. Mildred sat by Mr. Hardwick's
bedside, during the long hours, and read to him from his favorite
authors. About ten o'clock, just as the family were preparing to go to
bed, Mark drove up to the door. He was warmly welcomed, and at once
overwhelmed with questions. "Did he find Lucy?" "What did she know?"
"Why did she secrete herself?" To all these Mark merely replied, "I
found Lucy; how much I have accomplished I dare not say. But do you,
James, come with me. We will go up to old Mrs. Ransom's."
"Why, she's not there; she's gone to the poor-house."
"Broken down with old age and sorrow, I suppose. But I don't care to
see her now. Let us go to the old house; and meantime, you girls, go
But they protested they should wait till he returned,--that they could
not sleep a wink until they knew the result.
Provided with a lantern, the young men set out. They found the hovel
nearly in ruins; for pilferers had taken such pieces as they could
strip off for firewood. Mark eagerly ripped up the floor near the
hearth. At the first flash of the light he saw a paper, dusty and
discolored. He seized and opened it. _It was the will of Mr. Kinloch,
duly signed and attested_, Lucy had not deceived him.
With hurried pace they returned to the village, scarcely stopping to
take breath until they reached Mr. Hardwick's house. It was no vain
hope, then! It was true! The schemes of the step-mother would be
frustrated. The odious control of Squire Clamp would end. Mark began
to read the will, then stopped, embraced his cousins and Mildred by
turns, then read again. He was beside himself with joy.
All were too much excited to sleep; and when the first transports of
surprise were over, they naturally inquired after the unfortunate
girl. He had found her, after great difficulty, in a miserable garret.
The surmises of the villagers were correct. She was ruined,
heart-broken. Dissipation, exposure, and all the frightful influences
of her wretched life had brought on a fever, and now, destitute and
forsaken, she was left by those who had made merchandise of her
beauty, to die. He learned from Lucy what she knew of the affair of
the will. She became satisfied, soon after Mr. Kinloch's death, that
some wrong was intended, and she watched her mistress. Then Squire
Clamp had induced her by threats and bribes to get for him the papers.
As she took them out of the desk, one, larger than the rest, and with
several seals, attracted her attention. She felt quite sure it was Mr.
Kinloch's will; so she secreted it and gave the lawyer the rest. The
Monday afternoon following, she took the will to her grandmother's and
put it under a plank in the floor. Squire Clamp, strangely enough,
chanced to stop just as she had hidden it. He gave her back the
papers, as she supposed, and she replaced them in the secretary. On
her way home she fell in with Hugh,--a day neither of them would ever
The lawyer, who had counted on an easy victory over Mr. Alford, was
greatly surprised, the next day, to see him accompanied by Mark, as he
came into court; he had not heard of the young man's return. Besides,
their unmistakable air of confidence and exultation caused him some
misgivings. But he was boldness itself, compared with his wife. Her
face was bloodless, her hands tremulous, and her expression like that
of one ready to faint. Imagine the horror with which she saw the
production of the will, and then the proof by the only surviving
witness, brought to court from his residence in a neighboring town!
The letters of administration were revoked, and Mr. Alford, one of the
executors, was appointed Mildred's guardian. Completely baffled, dumb
and despairing, Squire Clamp and his bride left the room and drove
homeward. A pleasant topic for conversation they had by the way, each
accusing the other of duplicity, treachery, and folly! The will
provided that she should receive an annuity of one thousand dollars
_during her widowhood_; so that the Squire, by wedding her, had a new
incumbrance without any addition to his resources; a bad bargain,
decidedly, he thought. She, on the other hand, had thrown away her
sure dependence, in the hope of retaining the control of the whole
estate; for when she consented to marry Clamp, she had no doubt that
he had possession of the will and would, of course, keep it concealed.
Seldom it is that _both_ parties to a transaction are so overreached.
The successful party stopped at Mr. Hardwick's that evening to
exchange congratulations. He, as well as Mildred and Mark, was
interested in the lost will; for Mr. Kinloch had mentioned the fact of
the unsettled boundary-line, and directed his executors to make a
clear title of the disputed tract to the blacksmith. The shop was his;
the boys, at all events, would be undisturbed. One provision in the
will greatly excited Mark's curiosity. The notes which he owed to the
estate were to be cancelled, and there was an unexplained reference to
his uncle Hardwick and to some occurrences of long ago. Mildred at
once recalled to mind her father's dying words,--his calling for Mr.
Hardwick, and his mention of the cabinet. She had often thought of her
search in its drawers, and of her finding the lock of sunny hair and
the dried flower. And the blacksmith now, when asked, shook his head
mournfully, and said, (as he had before,) "Sus-some time; nun-not
The next day Mr. Alford came to town and advised Mark to marry
"I've ben thinkin' it over," he said, "and I b'lieve it's the best
thing to be done. You've got a tough customer to deal with, and it may
be some trouble to git all the property out of his hands. But when the
heiress is married, her husband can act for her to better advantage. I
guess I'll speak to Mr. Rook and have the 'fair 'tended to right
Mark submitted the matter to Mildred, who blushed properly, and
thought it rather hasty. But Mr. Alford's clear reasoning prevailed,
and the time was appointed at once. Mark and Mr. Alford then went to
call upon the lawyer. They entered his office without knocking, and by
chance found him busy with the accounts and papers; they were
scattered over the table, and he was making computations. As soon as
he was aware of the presence of visitors, he made an effort to slide
the documents under some loose sheets of paper; but Mark knew the bold
hand at once, and without a word seized the papers and handed them to
"Not very p'lite, Square, I know," said Mr. Alford, "but possession is
nine p'ints of the law, as I've heerd you say; and as you won't deny
the handwritin', I s'pose you don't question my right to these 'ere."
The rage of Mr. Clamp may be imagined.
"Good mornin', Square," said the triumphant executor. "When we've
looked over these affairs, we'll trouble you and the widder that was,
to 'count for what the schedool calls for."
The simple preparations for the wedding were soon made, and the
honest, great-hearted farmer had the pleasure of giving away the
bride. It was a joyful, but not a merry wedding; both had passed
through too many trials, and had too many recollections. And the
evident decline of Mr. Hardwick made Mark sad and apprehensive. But he
devoutly thanked God, as he clasped his bride to his bosom, for the
providence that had brought to him the fulfilment of his dearest
Here we might stop, according to ancient custom, leaving our hero and
heroine to their happiness. But though a wedding is always an event of
interest, there are other things to be narrated before we have done
with our story.
Not long after, Mark called at the Kinloch house, then occupied by Mr.
Clamp; as a measure of precaution, he took Mr. Alford with him.
Mildred had never regained her wardrobe; everything that was dear to
her was still in her stepmother's keeping,--her father's picture, her
own mother's miniature, the silver cup she had used from infancy, and
all the elegant and tasteful articles that had accumulated in a house
in which no wish was left ungratified. Ever since the session of the
Probate Court, the house had been shut to visitors, if any there had
been. Mrs. Clamp had not been seen once out of doors. But after
waiting a time, Mark and his friend were admitted. As they entered the
house, the bare aspect of the rooms confirmed the rumors which Mark
had heard. Mrs. Clamp received them with a kind of sullen civility,
and, upon hearing the errand, replied,--
"Certainly, Mrs. Davenport can have her clothes. She need not have
sent more than one man to get them. Is that all?"
"Not quite," said Mark. "Perhaps you are not aware of the change which
the discovery of the will may make in your circumstances. I do not
speak of the punishment which the fraud merits, but of the rights
which are now vested in me. First, I am desired to ask after the
plate, jewels, furs, and wardrobe of the first Mrs. Kinloch."
Mrs. Clamp was silent. A word let fall by Lucy suddenly flashed into
Mark's mind, and he intimated to the haughty woman his purpose to go
into the east front-chamber.
"Fine gentlemen," she said at length, "to pry into a lady's private
apartment! You will not dare enter it without my permission!"
And she stood defiantly in the doorway. But, without parley, Mark and
Mr. Alford pushed by her and walked up the staircase, not heeding the
shout of Mr. Clamp, who had followed them to the house.
"It might seem mean," said Mark to Mr. Alford; "but I think you'll
agree presently, that it wasn't a case for ceremony."
He stripped the clothes from the bed. The pillows were stuffed with
valuable furs; fine linen and embroideries filled the bolsters. The
feather-sack contained dresses of rich and costly fabrics,--the styles
showing them to be at least twenty years old. And in the mattress were
stowed away the dinner and tea services of silver, together with
porcelain, crystal, and Bohemian ware.
"What a deal o' comfort a body could take in sleepin' on a bed stuffed
like this 'ere!" said Mr. Alford; "I sh'd think he'd dream of the
"After this, Madam," said Mark, upon returning to the hall, "you can
hardly expect any special lenity from me. The will allowed you an
annuity of one thousand dollars while you remained single; since you
are married your interest ceases, but you shall receive two hundred a
year. The house, however, belongs to my wife. Your husband there has a
home to which you can go."
"Yes," said the lawyer, "he _has_ a home, and won't be beholden to any
man for a roof to shelter his family."
The pride of the woman was still unbent. Though her cheek was blanched
and her lips were bitten blue, still she stood erect and her head
turned queenly as ever. The glance she threw to the man who called her
wife was enough to have pierced him. Turning to Mark, she said,--
"If you will come to-morrow,--or Monday, rather,--you can have
possession of the house and property. My own things can be easily
removed, and it will be a simple matter to make ready for new comers."
"I could keep them out of it a year, if I chose," said Mr. Clamp.
"But I do not choose," said she, with superb haughtiness.
"Wal, good mornin'," said Mr. Alford.
As they left the house, Mrs. Clamp sat down in the silent room.
Without, the wind whistled through the naked trees and whirled up
spiral columns of leaves; the river below was cased in ice; the
passers-by looked pinched with cold, and cast hurried glances over
their shoulders at the ill-fated house and the adjacent
burying-ground. Within, the commotion, the chill, the hurry, the
fright, were even more intense. What now remained to be done? Her son,
vanquished in love by a blacksmith's _protege_, had fled, and left her
to meet her fate alone. The will had been discovered, and, as if by a
special interposition of Providence, the victim of her son's passions
had been the instrument of vengeance. The lawyer who had worked upon
her fears had proved unable to protect her. The estate was out of her
hands; the property with which she had hoped to escape from the hated
town and join her son was seized; she was a ruined, disgraced woman.
She had faced the battery of curious eyes, as she walked with the
husband she despised to the Sunday services; but what screen had she
now that her pride was humbled? The fearful struggle in the mind of
the lonely woman in the chill and silent room, who shall describe it?
She denied admission to the servants and her husband, and through the
long evening still sat by the darkening window, far into the dim and
Squire Clamp went to bed moody, if not enraged; but when, on waking,
he found his wife still absent, he became alarmed. Early in the
morning he tracked her through a light snow, that had sifted down
during the night, to the river-bank, at the bend where the current
keeps the ice from closing over. An hour after, some neighbors,
hastily summoned, made a search at the dam. One of them, crossing the
flume by Mr. Hardwick's shop, broke the newly-formed ice and there
found the drifting body of Mrs. Clamp. Her right hand, stretched out
stiff, was thrust against the floats of the water-wheel, as if, even
in death, she remembered her hate against the family whose fortune had
risen upon her overthrow!
Mark and Mr. Alford, after their disagreeable interview with the
Clamps, went to see Mr. Hardwick, whom they wished to congratulate. At
the door they were met by Lizzie, whose sad face said, "Hush!" Mark's
spirits fell instantly. "Is he worse?" he asked. A tear was the only
answer. He asked Mr. Alford to go for Mildred. "She has just come,"
They found Mr. Hardwick propped up in bed, whence he could look out of
the window. The church-spire rose on the one hand, and on the other
the chimney of the shop was seen above the trees on the river-bank. By
night the column of sparks had gladdened his eye, as he thought of the
cheerful industry of his sons. Mark tenderly pressed his uncle's hand,
and leaned over him with an affectionate, sorrowing interest.
"Der-don't take it to heart, my boy," said Mr. Hardwick. "I am very
"I am glad that the boys won't lose the shop," said Mark. "I see you
are looking out to the chimney."
"Yer-yes, it was thoughtful of Mr. Kinloch, and a special
Pr-Providence that the will was found."
"You know he mentioned his claim against me," said Mark; "that is
paid, and it doesn't matter; but I can't guess the reason for the
unusual kindness he has shown towards me."
The old man answered slowly, for his breathing was difficult and often
"It is an old story,--old as the dried f-flowers that Mildred told me
of,--but it had a f-fragrance once. Yer-your mother, Mark, was as
per-pretty a girl as you'd often see. Walter Kinloch ler-loved her,
and she him. He sailed to the Indies, an' some der-diff'culty
happened, so that the letters stopped. I d-don't know how 'twas. But
arter a while sh-she married your father. Mr. Kinloch, he m-married,
too; but I guess he nun-never forgot the girl of his choice."
Mark grasped his young wife's hand, at this tale of years gone by.
"The lock of hair and the rose were your mother's, then!" she
whispered. "Dear father! faithful, even in death, to his friends, and
to the memory of his first love! How much suffering and crime would
have been prevented, if he could only have uttered the words which his
"God forgive the woman!" said Mr. Hardwick, solemnly. None knew then
how much she had need of forgiveness, standing as she was on the brink
of that last fatal plunge!
Mr. Alford suggested that the fatigue of talking would wear upon the
enfeebled man, and advised that he should be left to get some rest, if
"To-morrow is S-Sabba'-day, ef I've counted right," said Mr. Hardwick.
"I sh-should like to see the sun on the st-heeple once more."
"Dear uncle, I hope you may see it a great many times. We must leave
you to rest."
"Good-night, mum-my children," he replied. "God b-bless you all! Let
me put my hands on your h-heads."
They knelt by his bedside, and he blessed them fervently. Mr. Alford
and Lizzie remained to attend upon him, and the others withdrew.
The night passed, how wearily! None could sleep, for through all the
air there was a presage of sorrow, a solemn "tingling silentness," to
which their senses were painfully alive. Who, that has passed the
interminable gloomy hours that preceded the departure of a loved and
venerated friend into the world of spirits, does not remember this
unutterable suspense, this fruitless struggle with eternal decrees,
this clinging of affection to the parting soul? What a sinking of the
heart even the recollection of such a scene produces!
The day dawned upon sleepless, tear-stained eyes. The dying man was
conscious, cheerful, and calmly breathing. In the adjoining room the
family sat beside the table on which was spread their untasted
The bell began to ring for meeting. Mr. Hardwick roused up at the
sound, and called for his children. He blessed them again, and placed
his hands on their bowed heads in turn. He thought of the psalms which
he had so often led, and he asked all to join in singing Billings's
"There is a land of pure delight,
Where saints immortal reign;
Infinite day excludes the night,
And pleasures banish pain."
"With faltering voices they sang the triumphal hymn. The old man's
eyes were fixed upon the steeple, which pointed upward through the
clear air, and shone in the golden light of the sun. He kept time with
a feeble movement, and once or twice essayed to raise his own wavering
voice. A smile of heavenly beauty played over his pallid features as
the music ceased,--a radiance like that crimson glow which covers the
mountain-top at dawn. He spoke almost inaudibly, as if in a trance;
then repeating with a musical flow the words of his favorite author,
"Where the bright seraphim in burning row
Their loud uplifted angel-trumpets blow,
And the cherubic host in thousand choirs
Touch their immortal harps of golden wires,
With those just spirits that wear victorious palms
Hymns devout and holy psalms
his voice sank again, though it was easy to see that a prayer trembled
on his lips. As a strain of music fades into silence, his tones fell
away, fainter and fainter; and with the same seraphic light on his
countenance his breathing ceased.
See, here it is, upon my breast,--
The bloody image of a hand!
On her white bosom it was pressed,
Who should have nursed--you understand;--
I never yet have named her name,
Nor will I, till 'tis free from shame.
The good old crone that tended me
Through sickly childhood, lonely youth,
Told me the story: so, you see,
I know it is God's sacred truth,
That holy lips and holy hands
In secrecy had blessed the bands.
And well he knew it, too,--the accursed!--
To whom my grandsire gave his child
With dying breath;--for from the first
He saw, and tried to snare the wild
And frightened love that thought to rest
Its wings upon my father's breast.
You may have seen him riding by,--
This same Count Bernard, stern and cold;
You know, then, how his creeping eye
One's very soul in charm will hold.
Snow-locks he wears, and gracious art;
But hell is whiter than his heart.
Well, as I said, the secret rite
Had joined them, and the two were one;
And so it chanced, one summer night,
When the half-moon had set, and none
But faint star-shadows on the grass
Lay watching for his feet to pass,
Led by the waiting light that gleamed
From out one chamber-window, came
The husband-lover;--soon they dreamed,--
Her lips still murmuring his name
In sleep,--while, as to guard her, fell
His arm across her bosom's swell.
The low wind shook the darkened pane,
The far clock chimed along the hall,
There came a moment's gust of rain,
The swallow chirped a single call
From his eaves'-nest, the elm-bough swayed
Moaning;--they slumbered unafraid.
Without a creak the chamber-door
Crept open!--with a cat-like tread,
Shading his lamp with hand that bore
A dagger, came beside their bed
The Count. His hair was tinged with gray:
Gold locks brown-mixed before him lay.
A thrust,--a groan,--a fearful scream,
As from the peace of love's sweet rest
She starts!--O God! what horrid dream
Swells her bound eyeballs? From her breast
Fall off the garments of the night,--
A red hand strikes her bosom's white!
She knew no more that passed; her ear
Caught not the hurried cries,--the rush
Of the scared household,--nor could hear
The voice that broke the after-hush:--
"There with her paramour she lay!
He lies here!--carry her away!"
The evening after I was born
No roses on the bier were spread,
As when for maids or mothers mourn
Pure-hearted ones who love the dead;
They buried her, so young, so fair,
With hasty hands and scarce a prayer.
Count Bernard gained the lands, while I,
Cast forth, forgotten, thus have grown
To manhood; for I could not die--
I cannot die--till I atone
For her great shame; and so you see
I track him, and he flies from me.
And one day soon my hand I'll lay
Upon his arm, with lighter touch
Than ladies use when in their play
They tap you with their fans; yet such
A thrill will freeze his every limb
As if the dead were clutching him!